Rainforest Facts for KS2 Children and Teachers
The rainforests are precious ecosystems that are teeming with life. Check out these fascinating rainforest facts for KS2 children and teachers to learn more about the tropical rainforests of the world.
What is a rainforest?
A rainforest is a tall, dense forest that receives lots of rain every year. Rainforests are full of biodiversity, meaning there are lots of different species of plants and animals that live there.
There are two types of rainforests: tropical rainforests and temperate rainforests. There are many more tropical than temperate rainforests; when people talk about rainforests, they are usually referring to tropical rainforests.
Where are the tropical rainforests located?
Tropical rainforests are found near the equator, between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. These are invisible lines that go all the way around the Earth.
The largest tropical rainforests are in the Amazon River Basin (South America), the Congo River Basin of West Africa, and parts of southeast Asia.
Tropical Rainforest Climate
Tropical rainforests are very hot, humid and wet. They get around 2500 mm of rain a year. The average temperature is 28°C. There are no seasons in tropical rainforests; the weather is consistent all year round. Temperatures are always between 20°C and 35°C.
What are the layers of the rainforest?
There are four layers of rainforest vegetation: the emergent layer, canopy, understorey and forest floor.
- The emergent layer: this is the tallest layer of the rainforest. Trees in the emergent layer can grow as tall as skyscrapers (between 40 m and 80 m) and have thin trunks. The emergent layer is home to lots of birds, monkeys and insects.
- The canopy layer: this is a thick layer of vegetation below the emergent layer. It is made up of leaves and branches from the canopy trees, which all crowd together blocking out 98 per cent of the sunlight to the layers below it. It also stops 80 per cent of the rainfall from reaching the ground. This is the main layer of the rainforest and most of the animals live here.
- The understorey: this is a dark, damp place because the canopy blocks most of the sunlight. Because there isn’t much light, only small shrubs and trees can grow there. However, the conditions are perfect for moss and algae, which usually grow on tree trunks and vines. The understorey is home to lots of insects and reptiles.
- The forest floor: this is the bottom level of the rainforest. It has poor soil but gets nutrients from the rotting plant debris. Fallen leaves, branches, the remains of dead creatures and other forest litter fall on the ground to cover the ground. These decay quickly thanks to insects, fungi and the hot conditions. Many insects make their home in the forest litter. The forest floor is also home to large mammals, like tigers, gorillas, elephants and anteaters.
Teachers: If you're looking for a more in-depth lesson on the layers of the rainforest, check out this fully-prepared layers of the rainforest lesson.
What plants live in the rainforest?
Around two-thirds of the world’s plant species live in rainforests. Rainforest conditions are perfect for helping plants grow. There are thousands of different species of flowers, trees and other plants. Common rainforest plants include bromeliads, lianas (vines), orchids, trees with buttress roots and carnivorous plants, such as the Venus flytrap.
10 Rainforest Plant Facts:
- Some plants in the rainforest can grow without soil thanks to the high humidity and heavy rainfall. These plants are known as epiphytes or air plants. They get their nutrients from plant debris and bird droppings.
- There is little sunlight on the forest floor so many rainforest plants have to adapt to the low light. Vines quickly grow up through the rainforest layers to reach the sunlight at the top.
- 90 per cent of the world’s vine species live in the rainforest.
- Instead of growing in the soil and climbing up, like vines, the Strangler Fig starts its life high up in the canopy and grows down towards the soil.
- Rainforest plants are used to make lots of the things we use every day, such as coffee, cacao (for chocolate), rubber, wood and dyes.
- Because there is so much rainfall, many rainforest plants have adapted to have curved tips so that the rainwater can run off their leaves easily.
- There are over 20,000 known species of orchids in tropical rainforests.
- Rainforest trees have shallow roots because of poor soil quality. Some of the trees have developed buttress roots, which give them much more support. Buttress roots are when the roots grow out of the base of the trunk, sometimes up to 5 metres above ground level.
- The rainforest is home to many carnivorous plants (plants that eat insects and small animals). One example is the Nepenthes rafflesiana which can grow up to 9 metres tall, with pitchers 3 metres wide. These pitchers are usually crammed full of digested insects.
- Bromeliads are related to the pineapple family. Their large, waxy leaves form a bowl shape in the middle of the plant which catches water. Some bromeliads can hold up to 9 litres of water
What animals live in the rainforest?
Rainforests are home to thousands of animal species which are supported and sheltered by the rich plant life of the rainforest. Many types of insects, arachnids (spiders), reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals live in different parts of the rainforests, depending on what the animal needs to survive.
Birds mainly live in the emergent layer. Larger mammals, like jaguars, elephants and tigers live on the forest floor. Other mammals are arboreal, which means they live in trees. Some arboreal mammals include monkeys and sloths.
10 Rainforest Animal Facts:
- There are so many animals living in tropical rainforests that scientists believe there are many species that haven’t even been discovered yet.
- Many rainforest animals have developed camouflage to protect themselves from predators. For example, sloths move so slowly that algae grows on them, giving their fur a green tint. This camouflages them in the trees.
- Sloths spend 90 per cent of their lives hanging upside down.
- Poison dart frogs are so poisonous that people living in rainforests use their poison on their arrow tips to make their arrows more lethal. They are one of the most toxic animals on the planet.
- Macaws are the largest species of parrot and are known for their beautiful plumage. They can grow up to 3.5 metres in length.
- There is a type of lizard (the common basilisk) that is known as the Jesus lizard because it can run on water.
- Capybaras are the largest rodents in the world. They can grow up to 1.5 metres long.
- Okapis, which are found in the Congo Basin, are animals that look like part-zebras and part-giraffes. They are related to the giraffe family but not the zebra family, so no one quite knows where their stripes come from.
- There is a species of frog called a glass frog that has a transparent belly. This means you can see its internal organs just by looking at it.
- Bullet ants, found in the rainforests of Nicaragua, are known to have the most painful sting in the world.
Teachers: Check out our Rainforest Science lessons to challenge your class to identify and classify rainforest plants and animals.
What do we use the rainforest for?
Rainforests are often referred to as ‘the lungs of the Earth’. This is because they play such an important role in absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen, which all animals need to survive. They help stabilise the climate of the planet and are a crucial ecosystem in the planet’s survival.
We also get lots of the products we use every day from rainforests, such as:
- Wood such as mahogany, teak, sandalwood and balsa
- Food such as bananas, citrus fruits, avocado, Brazil nuts, cashew nuts, tea, coffee and chocolate
- Tropical oils for cosmetics, soaps and shampoos
- Gums and resins used for insecticides, fuel, varnishes and paints
Did you know...?
70 per cent of the plants used in medicines that treat cancer are found in the rainforest. However, it is believed that only 1 per cent of all rainforest plants have been tested to see what their components can be used for.
What is rainforest deforestation?
Deforestation is when the trees in a forest are cut down. This can be done for many reasons, such as clearing an area for farming, logging for wood, mining, settlement and roads.
It is believed that an area of rainforest the size of a football pitch is lost to deforestation every single second. This is a major problem for the planet. Rainforests help keep our climate stable; without rainforests, the planet gets warmer and sea levels rise.
Deforestation also threatens the survival of many species of plants and animals due to a loss of habitat. With nowhere to live and less food to hunt or eat, species can become extinct.